General education requirements have a place

UNC undergraduate students have the opportunity to take a wide variety of classes — something that has come under fire recently from the Pope Center for Higher Education.

The Pope Center criticized the breadth of the classes available to undergraduates in a report published in the fall, and recently, chairman Arch T. Allen addressed an open letter to alumni encouraging them to voice opinions about the current general education requirements.

While a variety of voices have and will continue to influence UNC and its path forward, it is important to note that the general education requirements put in place for undergraduates are there for a reason: to prepare students not only for future jobs but for the rest of their lives.

General education requirements might seem broad and demanding at some points, but they are warranted and created with the best of intentions.

The variety of classes UNC students take enables them to be prepared for a wide range of careers. Students today face a job market that is extremely competitive and full of change.

In the past, graduates may have been able to narrowly focus their education on a specialized career. Today’s economy is a stark contrast. It is one that is constantly changing and constantly demanding more of employees.

Most UNC students will change their jobs and their careers multiple times over their lives. If UNC narrowed its undergraduate education, students would not be properly prepared to deal with this change.

In the Job Outlook 2012 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than two-thirds of employers said they wanted colleges to teach students how to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. Other sought-after skills included critical thinking, complex problems and interpersonal skills. The wide range of courses at UNC helps ensure that students have these skills.

Furthermore, every single course that satisfies a general education requirement goes through a vigorous process for approval by UNC faculty. This is important as they are the people who know how students learn, what ways they learn best and what will enable them to succeed in the future.

Lastly, college should be a place where students have the opportunity to discover what they are passionate about and to take courses that challenge them. It would be a disservice to everyone involved, both inside and outside the University, if a political agenda impeded students from getting the education they deserve.

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